Thursday, 12 November 2020
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
91. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which he and his Department have examined the options available for Irish exporters with business commitments in the UK and throughout the European Union or beyond with respect to their ability to gain ready, speedy and unimpeded access to their markets post Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35769/20]
Regardless of the outcome of the EU-UK negotiations, the end of the transition period will see the UK no longer applying the rules of the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union. This will have immediate implications for trade flows, particularly to UK markets but also to wider EU markets via the UK Landbridge.
All businesses that export goods to Great Britain will be subject to a range of new customs formalities, SPS checks and other regulatory requirements that do not currently apply to such exports. It is vital that all exporters take steps to understand the impacts of the new rules or processes that will govern their export activity from 1 January 2021. These steps are set out in the Government’s Brexit Readiness Action Plan published in September 2020.
The Action Plan also sets out the detailed work that has been carried out across Government to invest in the infrastructure and systems required for these additional checks and controls for trade with Great Britain in both directions, at Dublin Port, Rosslare Europort and at Dublin Airport.
In relation to trade transiting the UK to access EU markets, the UK landbridge is an important means of access to the single market, one that is favoured by traders in high value or time sensitive goods because it offers significantly faster transit times than alternative routes. As such we continue to work positively with our EU partners on addressing challenges in EU ports for traffic using the landbridge. However, the Government has pointed out for some time now including in our 2019 and 2020 readiness plans that there will likely be delays at ports immediately after the end of the transition period, with Dover-Calais identified as a particular likely bottleneck.
The process for moving goods by direct ferry routes between Ireland and other EU Member States will not be subject to the new procedures and controls. This trade stays within the Single Market. Following ongoing consultation with the shipping sector, and given the responsiveness of the shipping companies during the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been my Department’s assessment that sufficient capacity should be available on direct routes to continental ports following the end of the UK’s transition period.
Following a request from my Department, the Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO) last week published a report that reassesses Ireland’s Maritime Connectivity, and builds on and updates previous work carried out by the IMDO by updating the 2018 Landbridge Study. This report concludes that there is more than sufficient capacity on existing services in the RoRo network between Ireland and mainland Europe to cater, if required, for the landbridge traffic currently estimated at around 150,000 trucks per annum.
In addition the IMDO have launched a communications campaign which encourages businesses currently moving goods to Continental Europe through the UK to ACT now - ASSESS their supply chain, COMMUNICATE their needs to their logistic or shipping company and TRIAL the direct shipping options in order to keep their business moving. I encourage engagement between traders, hauliers and ferry companies to align capacity with needs and I would encourage traders, where it is feasible to do so, to avoid the risk of disruption by moving to direct services now and not wait until after 1 January 2021.
The performance of the shipping industry in responding to the challenges of Covid-19 has been impressive, including with a number of new direct services to Continental Europe having been established between Irish and continental ports, during the pandemic. My Department is confident that the shipping industry serving Ireland is open and competitive, is responsive to market demand and capable of responding to any increase in demand for direct connectivity to Continental Europe at the end of the transition period. Indeed we have seen recent moves by Irish Ferries and Stena to introduce revised schedules from 1 January 2021. Both companies have indicated that they are changing and increasing their sailings to Cherbourg from January 2021. Between them there will then be a daily service available from Ireland to France resulting in a further increase in capacity on this direct Continental Europe route of approximately 15%.
As regards air freight, the air cargo sector is fully liberalised and airlines are free to operate on a commercial basis in response to market developments internationally. Department officials have been working closely with stakeholders in the aviation sector both in response to the imapcts of the COVID-19 crisis, and to prepare them for the changes to come at the end of the Brexit Transition period. Officials from my Department continue to engage on a regular basis with airlines, other aviation stakeholders, and with the European Commission on efforts to maintain essential supply lines, and other related issues.
The Government’s Brexit Readiness Action Plan has a section on air travel with advice to businesses on what steps to take in order to be Brexit ready. This would apply to those involved in air freight, as well as passenger transport. Similar readiness preparations have been made at European level. It is not anticipated that the changed regulatory regime for aviation between the EU and the UK will have any direct impact on the movement of freight by air.
With a view to keeping essential supply lines moving during the COVID-19 crisis, my Department also fully supported the European Commission in its Green Lanes Communications in March 2020 and again last month, for border management measures across the EU to protect health and ensure the continued availability of goods and essential services.